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We Need Honesty in the Health Debate

We Need Honesty in the Health Debate

"It should come as no surprise that one-third of nurses are at the end of their tether and thinking of leaving the profession within the next year," ACT health spokesman Heather Roy says.

"Health board plans for this year project a combined $200M deficit, while the Budget provided only $80M for deficit support. Almost a quarter way through the financial year, most district plans have yet to be signed off, as the Ministry pressures boards to cut spending.

"It's clear boards are under enormous pressure to contain nurses' wages and conditions.

"The results of a survey released yesterday, carried out last year, show a rising level of dissatisfaction within the health sector. Nurses and health professionals have experienced change for the sake of change over the past decade.

"Gone are matrons, ward sisters and charge nurses. Gone are medical superintendents. We used to have elected health boards, the HFA, CHEs and RHAs. Now we have District Health Boards (DHBs). What the sector needs is stability, not constant change.

"ACT campaigned on improving the economy so we can compete with the rest of the world in paying nurses, teachers and skilled workers. Training New Zealand nurses for export is not a smart Labour government strategy.

"ACT also campaigned for a 'Patients' Guarantee'. This is a guarantee that patients on public waiting lists for an unacceptable length of time will receive treatment in the private sector.

"The Health Minister will not admit she has decreased funding per person in real terms in the last financial year. But the Finance Minister, answering a Parliamentary question, has admitted health funding has been cut in the 2001/02 year. This not only means less or poorer-quality services for patients, but also puts nurses and other health professionals in the position of trying to provide services within a system that is being squeezed from every direction.

"We have a health system based on rationing, but no one will admit this. ACT calls for a health debate based on intellectual honesty.

"Until this happens, nothing in the health system will improve and our nurses will continue to leave New Zealand in droves, Mrs Roy said.

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